21 June 2012

In search of orange

The groupings of photos above were brought together for a challenge proposed by two US-based artists, Jennifer Coyne Qudeen and Julie Booth. Every third Thursday of the month they are inviting others to post between one and five images focusing on a single color. Working their way through the spectrum, the challenge has been dubbed ROY B GIV (an acronym for red/orange/yellow/blue/green/indigo/violet). As an extra incentive, Jennifer & Julie are both offering prizes on their blogs; click the links from their names to have a look.

My original plan was to gather some of my favorite orange things from around the house—an enormous Italian-English dictionary, a raw silk pillow, a Florentine linen napkin from one of my grandmothers, a trio of favorite orange-spined books by architect/writer Witold Rybcznski, an orange woven tray, etc. But when I went back to look at Jennifer & Julie's photos for RED, I realized their shots featured subjects that seemed to be more spontaneous (as opposed to premeditated), so I rethought my original approach. Florence feels like an oven at the moment, so wandering around town in search of orange things hasn't been very appealing this week; instead, I took a trip down Nostalgia Lane (via iPhoto, the photo application where my images are organized). Some pictures feature Florence, others I shot in Venice, and those of the produce were taken at home.

Orange is actually my favorite color, though eggplant-y & plum-y shades of purple run a close second, as well as deeper shades of red/wine/burgundy. As my maternal grandmother always used to say, "We like dirty colors, don't we?", so many of my photos tend to lean more toward the terracotta/rusty side of orange. I've always wondered if the prevalence of terracotta roof tiles is one reason I feel so at home in Florencethey are everywhere you look, including the beautiful Cupola that towers above the rest of the city.

I had forgotten that the limit was supposed to be five photos (I ended up with four groups of four), but the important thing for me was simply the 'taking inspiration' part of the challenge. Because they were culled from photos shot without prejudice to color, those I chose include a variety of other colors that naturally fell within the frame, but I do love the impact of Jennifer's compositions in this post's photos, as they clearly pay tribute to RED. I will try to keep in mind 'YELLOW' over the next few weeks so that July's images might be a bit more deliberate (though I do have a collection of yellow-dominant photos already in mind...we'll see). In any case, as always, it has been fun to follow the process and see where it led.

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{If you'd like to participate in futureor even todayplease see the guidelines here, which include leaving a link to your photos on Jennifer and/or Julie's blogs.}

15 June 2012

The rose garden in spring

The Giardino delle Rose is one of my favorite places in Florence, and even more so now that several sculptures by Jean-Michel Folon have been placed throughout the terraced rose garden overlooking the city. {The sculpture with the bronze man sitting on a bench (below) is called Je me souviens.}

Roses intoxicate

birds call
insects buzz

cameras focus
voices disperse

rooftops recede
sky looms

thoughts drift
senses awaken

time melts.

Sweeping like the view—floating across rooftops & reaching into the hills—Florence's church bells mark the quarter hours. One at a time, melodies from the many campanili come to life: tinny, clanging, sweet and undulating. Then those from the cathedral chime in, lower and deeper than the others, resonating, connecting three-hundred-and-sixty degrees of bellsong.

I'm not sure if it's the natural consequence of venturing beyond the city's boundaries, into a seemingly different world...of experiencing the change of pace and the shift of mindset that comes with it...but each time I visit the rose garden I can't help but fill my camera's memory chip with new photos. It's almost as though I'd never seen a rose before—or an artichoke, or a lavender bush or a head of cauliflower. (Maybe this is what happens when you no longer have a garden of your own?)

As much as I loved the many outdoors spaces and 'rooms' that encircled our old house in southern California, I don't really mind having to travel a little ways to arrive at the giardino delle rose. It is certainly more of an event, entailing a more conscious decision to leave the studio, forget the chores, delay the errands—things which can often be hard to otherwise do.

And what a pleasure it is to take home little 'pieces' of the garden, to sift through the photos afterwards. I have paired a handful of images from one January afternoon (first shown in an earlier Arzigogolare entry) with a selection taken during the course of several visits this past May. On the left of each set is the winter view, and glimpses of spring appear on the right.

Last year's rosehips have given way to this year's blossoms.

The striking fuchsia stems I discovered in January turned out to be green & leafy in spring.

I loved the glimpse of this one pomegranate, dried and split, caught in a nest of winter branches. The tree is so different in this season: new pomegranates are just beginning to form at the base of vibrant flowers that stand out among the shiny leaves.

At the beginning of the year, the pond reflected a steely sky; now that spring is in full swing, it reflects the new life in the garden. (The reflection of Mediterranée, another Folon sculpture, can be seen among those of the trees).

In January, a plethora of tiny rosehips decorated a web of stems; now, tightly closed buds await the right moment before blooming.

Artichokes that made it to winter turned fluffy and are barely recognizable as the sturdy multi-pointed stars that slowly unfold this spring.

Who knew that the harvest moons decorating these rose stems were the small fruits of pink roses?

A January cauliflower nestled among layers of leaves calls to mind the intricately layered petals of this freshly bloomed Rosa Donne d'Italia 150. The tri-color rose was created last year, when Italy was celebrating 150 years of unification, and dedicated in honor of the Festa delle Donne (International Women's Day).

Winter's festive screen of rosehips has been transformed into a verdant wall dotted with thousands of tiny roses just starting to bloom.

Those red thorny stems that caught my eye in January now bear blousy golden roses.

Bushes with red-tinged winter leaves & berries have turned green, with next winter's berries beginning to grow.

Translucent dried leaves capture light from January's low sun while spring's profusion of rose petals mimic shades of dawn.

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Below are more images (all taken this past May).

What a difference a week can make: it didn't take long for potent round buds to blossom into flouncy peonies.

Books in the garden: [LEFT] The bronze man featured in Je me souviens (the Folon sculpture shown at the beginning of this post) holds a beautifully weathered book. [RIGHT] The pages of Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh flutter in the breeze. (I loved how a sprig of mint picked from underfoot lent a hint of freshness to the tea I brought to the garden one afternoon.)

The rusty shades of a velvety iris are echoed by the patinaed Partir, another sculpture by Folon (above is a detail of the waves and the ship that rides upon it).

Some of the most delicate blossoms are my favorites: joining the scent of roses is the delicious fragrance of lemon blossoms. (A few lemons from last season still hang among the foliage, creating a splash of yellow mixed in with the pink buds, white flowers & rich green leaves.) The olive trees have been blooming with sprigs of miniature blossoms too, momentarily giving the trees a very different character.

"Carciofi!" I hear over and over. No one can resist exclaiming over the artichokes when they pass by the clusters of them—the roses they expect, but carciofi are another thing altogether. They're so magnificent, rising from their stalks like purplish-green rose blooms...

The most startling jolt of color in the whole garden must have been the Rosa Sericea Pteracantha. The color of fresh blood, the thorns edging these stems caught my eye as I was winding down to the lower entrance one evening. As spring passes, the thorns are losing their vibrancy, growing deeper in color.

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And now, as I finally pull together these garden photos, it is already the middle of June—nearly summer! The intense perfume of tigli (linden trees) has filled the city during the last few weeks...especially delicious in the coolest hours that begin and end each day. Up at the garden, the peonies have long given up, and the roses are fading fast. I look forward to seeing what the camera will discover as the next season unfolds...

{A few of my notes about artist Jean-Michel Folon appear here. I also mentioned him on pages 125-127 in the Piazza della Signoria chapter of The Piazzas of Florence, and more Folon-inspired work is in progress.}

{For notes on my annual rose garden readings of AML's book, Gift from the Sea, please click here.}

{Follow this link for a lovely series of photos portraying the growing cycle of the Rosa Sericea Pteracantha.}

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